Mihaela Cristea is originally from Romania but currently is homeless in Vorarlberg where she begs on the streets with a young child, which is banned in the state.
“There was an unanimous agreement from all parties in Vorarlberg's parliament that begging with young children is forbidden in this state, which beggars have to abide to,” said politician Erich Schwärzler (ÖVP), head of the local authority.
He added it is “important and correct” to set boundaries for those who continue to flout the law and beg with children.
The lawyer for Cristea says, however, that it is unrealistic that someone who earns €200 a month could ever afford to pay a €38,000 fine. That is “absolutely disproportionate and also unlawful”, said lawyer Anton Schaefer.
Cristea told the ORF she has five children, no work and sleeps on the street. “I earn between €20 and €30 a day and I have to send most of that to my children in Romania,” she said.
Schaefer argues that the high fine is being used by authorities in Vorarlberg to allow for the removal of beggars from the state, something that Schwärzler did not deny.
“We do not want organised beggars and people who come to our country and do not abide the law in our country,” he told the ORF.
Representative of the Green party in Vorarlberg Nina Tomaselli has criticised the heavy fine and has called for a “return to reason”.
If Cristea wins her case, then Schaefer says the lawfulness of the begging ban in Vorarlberg could be called into question and the ban “abolished”.